Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scouting Wagner

Alex Thomson

If you think FCS programs can't turn it around overnight, take a good look at the Wagner University Seahawks.

The weakest team Columbia faced last year is suddenly looking like a bunch of world beaters after routing an impressive Sacred Heart team, 45-20 on Staten Island Saturday night.

It was hard to give Wagner any credit through the first two weeks of their season, since they had only played a D-III team and a NAIA program. Then they were simply the cupcake opponents for Boston College in a 42-10 loss. The Sacred Heart game really changed everything for the Seahawks.

It looks like the biggest jump has come on offense. Wagner has two potent running backs in Matt McKinnon and Denzel Knight. McKinnon is coming off a 157-yard rushing performance against Sacred Heart and has four TD's on the season. Knight added 76 yards in the Sacred Heard game on just four carries and has three TD's on the year.

But QB Alex Thomson may have made the most strides over last year. This season, he's completed 57% of his passes and has just one INT compared to seven TD passes. Against Sacred Heart he was 15-28 for 276 yards, three TD's and no picks.

The offensive line looked iffy after allowing 12 sacks in the first three games, but it held Sacred Heart to no sacks last week,

The receivers have no standout name, a tribute to the QB Thomson who has been effectively spreading his passes around. Senior Andrew Yevchinecz is considered the top WR, but he's only grabbed seven passes so far. TE Ryan Owens, who resembles Princeton's TE Scott Carpenter, may be a much bigger problem for the Lions considering how Carpenter nailed them last week.

On defense, at least before the Sacred Heart game, Wagner looked like it was much better against the pass than the run. Sophomore LB Santoni Graham is a breakout star as he leads the team in tackles and tackles for a loss. But fellow LB Najee Harris is still a force as is the third impact LB, Randall May.

The special teams are mostly very strong. Placekicker James Cooper is 5 of 6 on FG attempts this year and just hit a 52-yarder last week. Punter Bryan Rafano is averaging 40 yards a boot. And Yevchinecz is a very dangerous punt returner.  

Add it all up and throw in the fact that Wagner will certainly want revenge for last years 26-3 loss to the Lions, and you have a tough test for Columbia three nights from now.

No comments: